I am challenged to try and help the following scenario: maybe you can help me out and mention how you made it through this point. To grossly overgeneralize there seems to be two camps of students. 1) Those who are more comfortable musically 2) Those who are more comfortably “socially.”
I have a student who “gets” music therapy. She sees what’s going on, who’s doing what and why it’s good for them. She knows what the kids need and why the activities are good. She addresses behavioral issues in a positive way. And she has such an excellent voice. But she’s rather new to guitar and piano.
She’s bumped into a new issue when playing and singing songs in our class. Some of the newly acquired guitar skills seem to go “out the window” during the actual session. And she tells me “I can play this at home,” and “I did it for clinical practicum class!”
I figured it out and she agreed. What’s happening is that at home and at class she is able to just play the song. In a music therapy setting, she has to 1) remember the chords and words, 2) sing along 3) lead the kids into participating along 4) pace the activity 5) correct any behavioral problems and 6) make any musical adaptations to foster success while 7) ignoring any adult conversation between the grownups in the room (which I try to handle…) and there’s probably an 8,9, 10. I said “No wonder the chords leave you.!”
How to get around this? Hummmm. Just REALLY practice your guitar skills. Know your string names, and basic scale notes C.O.L.D. To not have these basics down would be like a gym teacher having to think “move left foot forward, move right foot, pick up left leg and move it forward” while trying to teach kids running basketball dr ills. Why do this to yourself? Really now…
To busy to practice? Watch TV with your guitar in your lap. Move your fingers to the various chord shapes silently without strumming. Do this instead of petting the dog. Just keep acquainting your fingers to those patterns on those strings. Make a recording (CD or MP3) of the songs you want to learn and play it while you exercise, clean the house, do your laundry and sing the melody but substitute the chord names for the lyrics. Drive around singing the songs and move your left hand on the steering wheel like it was the guitar. You’re just drilling the shapes of the guitar chords into your subconscious so you don’t have to think about them while you’re doing the other nine things at once! I don’t care if you have to play your alphabet chords (A ,B7, C, D, Dm, E, Em, F and G) on your hamburger before you eat it, but get those chords second nature!
Also, try to learn to tune your guitar by ear. That way it’s more automatic than cerebral and will be quicker. Just tune it once a day. But the once a day is the important piece. Tuning it 7 times before your weekly MT placement will not do the trick. It’s the everyday part that is effective.
Please let me know what your secret is for the issue of having to do 10 things at once. I’d love to hear from you. :)- Margie La Bella of Music Therapy Tunes.
Soon, I’ll make a VIDEO on guitar chord patterns that sound good and are useful but not that difficult. Check out my video page here and my youtube channel “MusicTherapySongs1.”
P.S. If you are reading this, it is with the permission of the student involved. I’ll miss her and wish her the best of everything.